Double the success…

 

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“For you must have double the failures to have double the success”

Just a few hours ago, someone said this in a speech to group of retired educators, their families and friends, at a function in their honour. He could not have known the MANY mistakes that I made in attempting to organize this function and the tears and frustration that accompanied it.

It’s hard to appreciate these sentiments when you are 1. a perfectionist, and 2. someone who likes control.

We humans, are our worst critic. I chuckle at the thought, because I know it to be true. I don’t think that anyone berates us as hard as we do when we make mistakes. Perhaps its imagining the criticism that makes us so hard on ourselves, as we imagine others taking our mistakes apart and wondering “How could he/she make such an error?”.

But there is that word: error or mistake. As much as I hate making them, I’ve come to realize that they are teaching tools, moments in our lives when we are afforded an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves and of those around us. These are occasions that we may term ‘on the job experience’, as we navigate the varied experiences of life, that we have to work through.

You have to go through to grow through – if you never made a mistake in your life it means that either a) you are blind to your own mistakes and your Johari Window needs to be opened up, b)people are afraid of you ( because life always presents someone ready, willing and able to quickly and clearly point out your mistakes) and are talking behind you back or c) you have made mistakes but refuse to acknowledge them. Neither of these scenarios are acceptable for it would mean that our development has been arrested – we are not experiencing growth in key areas of our lives.

As one who has had a few doozies throughout my life, here is my advice:

Mistakes will happen. There is no way to avoid them. Accept them as a foundation for success.

Don’t take yourself or it too seriously.  In Jamaica we say ” If it no tek life and cause death, it no serious (if it doesn’t threaten yours or anyone’s  life or causes death, it’s not that serious). And that is true. Mistakes tend to cause us some periods of emotional and psychological discomfort but that’s how it is. Does this mean you are to be nonchalant? Absolutely not. For some errors do have serious consequences. For those that do have serious consequences, identify solutions, apply them quickly so you can move on to the next experience. The thing to do is learn from it and move on. Don’t allow them to become what defines you.

Learn from it and move on. Quickly.  This part needs no explanation. We already know that dwelling on it only makes it seem worse than it probably is. So if you can, put it behind you as quickly as possible (hopefully those concerned will allow you to).

If you can, don’t make mistakes that you will live to regret. This means that you will have to take care to examine choices before making a decision, if time allows. And time always allows. It doesn’t necessarily mean days, hours or weeks. Just take a moment to breathe and think. Otherwise, it means that you are acting impulsively.

Ah, if only I had taken this advice myself not long ago. But then again, I would not have learnt.

Teachable moments. Such is life.

 

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Stay the course…

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A few months ago, I was taken by surprise when I found out that two childhood friends were getting married. I was overcome with happiness for them and expressed my joy by praising God.

I thought about our early days in primary and high schools, and of the twists and turns our lives took. Some of the turns were rough, really rough. For me, there were times that I personally gave up. More than once, I thought it best if I never existed. I just couldn’t take it anymore.

But then, I took a breath. And another breath. And another. And things, though still trying and troubling, didn’t feel as badly as it did. I made plans and started working towards them. As I did, I came upon stumbling blocks, fell down mountain sides, broke my heart, had my heart broken. My body was broken. And for a while, my spirit felt broken too.

I was crying tears through the night, until they pooled in my ears. Through many smiles and loud laughter, I sometimes felt very alone because I felt I couldn’t share what I was going through. No one would understand, even though if I told them, they’d say they did. So I put on a face and pressed on. Sometimes, when you are caught up in your world of pain, you feel so isolated.

Despite this, something deep inside me, compelled me to go on. Though I was challenged, I knew giving up was not an option. This is something I’ve come to know about myself, a statement I’ve quietly whispered through tearful prayers over recent years: It’s hard, but I have no idea on how to quit. It’s not in me to give up.  And it’s not that I haven’t truly wanted to. There are those days when the burdens are too much to bear and it manifests as a heaviness that saps my strength.

It was in those moments, that God said, “My child, my strength is made perfect in your weakness”. Letting go and surrendering control is difficult for me. But I’ve had to just let go and let God. And so I laid down, physically when strength failed me,  and I was spiritually drained. I became quiet and withdrew so I could take sustenance from my source.

It is during these times that I able to see my way.  When I became still, and stopped trying to solve every single thing or explain and understand it all,  I came to recognize there ARE going to be those occasions  and experiences for which there are no logical explanations. This understanding didn’t come overnight but revealed itself as time progressed and I matured experiencially.   Sometimes being still was hard but because I know for sure that this power holds my future, I started to move forward with confidence. I didn’t need to see or know all things, because He sees and knows all things.

I look at my now and think of how things were being orchestrated and organized to meet me right where I am. And I know its the same for all of us. The way is sometimes circuitous: there are delays, disturbances, distractions and mis-directions. Sometimes it seems we take the long route  when the journey could have been less challenging.

But there were important lessons to learn. Perhaps circumventing them would mean a longer journey. And so though the journey seems long, take your time. Be gentle with yourself and stop comparing yourself to those who are ahead of you. That is only a source of frustration. Be reminded ” The race is not for the swift nor the strong but for those who endure to the end”.

Stay the course and draw strength from your source. It’ll be worth it in the end.

 

The Zika Virus and being scared sh*tless

I live in the Caribbean and we get all sorts of things coming at us every summer through to December each year: storms, hurricanes, floods are commonplace. However, though they happen quite frequently, I always get a bit tense and jumpy when the season rolls around.

We’ve been hit with a number of tropical related viruses and communicable diseases throughout time. I unfortunately, was not skipped the last time around and caught the dreaded Chikungunya Virus(Chick V) when it passed through. Usually all of those things pass me by but I was bit (literally) in the behind by the aedes aegypti mosquito and viola!, the rest was pain and more pain.

That was just a year or so ago and I’m left with all sorts of small issues: lumps appearing at my elbows and my left thumb. They have since disappeared but now I have some arthritic-like symptoms in my joints. Various little aches and pains that I’m told are remnants of the virus, though nothing to incapacitate me totally. This has left me a bit wary, so I’m careful to ensure that the much needed vitamins and irons are regularly taken.

Despite being careful, I have not posted in the past few weeks because its flu season and, of course, I caught it. That, in combination with a number of sleepless nights due to studies and my current mode of employment, left me incapacitated for the past few weeks. I am still not fully recovered (have a nagging cough) but I have still had to power though work and school and any other important task that demanded my attention.

These challenges has left me a bit pre-occupied with the Zick V. I’ve been watching and reading with horrible fascination, all the new coverage regarding this latest epidemic. Is it an epidemic though? It seems to have just surfaced but in fact, has been in existence for quite sometime. I shake my head at all the complications it has brought to the lives of parents who have been caught unaware and quite innocently in a fracas being brought by an insect that was created to destroy another. I watch from the ‘safety’ of my living room, these mothers who have a look of bewilderment and I can hardly imagine the social welfare disaster that has been created. I wonder if these governments are prepared for what is truly to come.

I see their fear and my own stomach knots in response because you sort of wonder ‘what’s next?’. Between science and nature, we have been lashed with a number of diseases that we seem ill-equipped to handle.

I wish the best for them. I hope the powers that be quickly articulates some sort of social welfare response to the crisis that affords them the kind of support they will need over the next few years, at least.

Keep humanity in your prayers. We certainly need it.

Bless up.

 

 

Produce Where You are Planted

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When you are surrounded by utter garbage, it’s hard to imagine or see anything other than filth.

I was at a building some time ago, one that I frequent. It is supposed to be a place of teaching and learning, and one in fact, that produces a number of stellar graduates each year. As I looked around me, my stomach cringed and my skin crawled a bit. There was garbage strewn on the floor, graffiti competing with soilage of unknown sorts and flies buzzing around, making a miserable place even more so due to the heat. I wondered, “How do they function here?”

I went about my business quickly, making use of wipes and hand sanitizer on the occasions that I had to touch something that was suspect. I left, putting it behind me as best I could. It was later, as I tried to complete an assignment,that I was reminded of a story I heard a few months ago. It was of a rose growing and flourishing despite its harsh environment. I wrote the following thought down on a sticky pad: Blossom/ Produce Where You are Planted.

I mused about the various programs I watched in the past of persons who became successful despite extreme odds. There was a basic theme that stood out to me.

Be ‘rooted and grounded’: Be so firm in your beliefs, that nothing can shake your resolve.  See yourself outside of your current circumstances. These people were able to dream and in dreaming, they remained firm in their resolve to get out of their current situations. They were unmovable in their desire to ‘get out of t/here’, a sentiment one might hear repeated by people who are faced with challenging circumstances. Their desire to be more than they were superseded anything that they faced. As a matter of fact, they channeled all that energy, and turned it into the motivation needed to drive them to work harder.

I live in a hurricane belt. Every few years we get the most terrifying of storms or hurricanes that cause millions, perhaps billions, of dollars worth of damage. I remember my first and how fascinated I was to watch the wind wreak havoc on trees and buildings. Some trees danced in a long hard fight against the wind. Some lost and were born down or torn apart. Some bent and leaned from the wind, allowing it to flow over their bent bodies, but never breaking.

We need to be like the trees. When one is buffeted by life’s winds, we need to bend and curve ourselves at our strongest part. There will be some scars, of course. We won’t come away unscathed but will be better for the experience.

Be the change you want to see: The surroundings may not be what you want it to be, but that doesn’t mean you are to give less than your best every single time. Your best shot may be a game changer changer. Imagine, if you are at work, or in an environment of mediocrity, what will happen if you performed optimally regardless of the situation, without making excuses? When opportunity meets preparation, then it will be time for promotion. Not only will your reap your just rewards, but you may cause change in another by inspiring them to become a better version of themselves. This requires you to make no excuses, but to recognize and have an understanding of the season you are in.

Like trees, we will go through seasons. The environment may be harsh and dirty and awful but this is the time we will know what we are made of. There are seasons for storing away and preparing for the journey ahead. There are seasons of growing – when the challenges and the conditions seem their harshest but then that’s when the plant morphs to fit its surroundings. It sheds some unwanted, un-necessary things that will drain it and keeps only that which is key to its survival. When I was in high school, we did an experiment with seeds where we’d put them in a glass jar filled with water and newspaper. The chemicals from the paper was obviously harsh on it but the seed took what it needed to survive and grew into a young plant. Overtime, it sprout roots and eventually was transferred into more favourable conditions. Therefore, expect your conditions to become more suitable over time.

We’re just like the seeds. We are surrounded by harsh conditions but we can take what we need and shed the unwanted. Like the seed’s outer-covering, for a while we need a coat to protect us. But as time progresses, we transform and what used to affect us, doesn’t anymore. Our roots grow out and plunges deep. They run so deep that they pass through rocks and other matter that may prevent it from getting what it needs to survive: water.

Water your soul: There’s a song I love that reads “When I get weary, when I get weary, water my soul, Lord, water my soul”. Water represents not only sustenance for our body and spirit but also cleansing and washing. Sometimes, we need to be washed clean. That means engaging in activities that allows us to just, really, free ourselves, so we are less burdened and able to move ahead unencumbered. Find that thing that ‘waters’ your soul. Only you know it and if you don’t, you will recognize it once you search for it.

Find your source, your sustenance. Reach deep down inside and draw out what you need. Be that “Tree that is planted by the rivers of waters that brings forth fruit in its season”. Bloom, call forth that which is on the inside of you. Remember, that which doesn’t produce, becomes useless and is cast aside.

Be fruitful. Go produce.

 

 

Word Up!

Words hurt and we should take care in how we use them.

I just finished watching Mary J. Blige and Taylor Swift sing “Doubt” on YouTube and as I read the comments section, I was taken aback by some of the comments posted there. Well, I really don’t know why I’m surprised because that isn’t something new to social media. People are now afforded the opportunity to spit their vitriol in whatever direction and much as they desire these days, due the anonymity the medium allows them.

There seems to be a level of meanness in today’s society. Its as though the meaner and more sarcastic you are, people applaud you as being “outspoken”, “tell it like it is” and above board. There seems to be no place for kindness, sensitivity and tact.

I’ve witnessed how an unkind word can ruin someone’s day, damage an already fragile self-esteem, become the basis for how someone evaluates them self. Conversations with peers, students I teach, people I’ve met throughout my lifetime, have expressed how things said to them at one point or the other, have affected them both positively and negatively.

Shouldn’t we then take care in what we say to each other?

Words have the power to create. The greatest example came from the creator who spoke this world into existence. Proverbs 18:21  states that “Death and life [are] in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof”. We have such great power over another and over ourselves in what we speak into our lives and into the life of another. Our words sows seeds that bear fruits of different kinds – what fruits do you want to see being born in another or in yourself since when we speak, we produce? What kind of harvest are you looking for?

Words are a currency – when they are uttered, they have a value. We determine, by our thoughts,our heart and intent, what value the words will have. In most instances, when we spend our money, we take care in what we are investing it in. There are occasions, however, when we spend it carelessly on an item that we later regret. If we want our investment to give good returns, like money, we should take care in how we ‘invest’ our words, since once uttered, we can’t take them back. Unlike items we buy which we may be able to return, no amount of  apologies can compensate for the hurt created when unkind words are uttered.

As a child growing up with many siblings (one of whom is my twin), I learnt to observe and take care before I speak. At some point in my life, I created the phrase “Remember what wisdom there is in silence”. I was cautioning myself to think before I spoke and also reminded myself to be observant. Too often we express an opinion without knowing the facts and cause hurt when it shouldn’t be.

Is it so hard to speak words that encourage, that are kind? In my culture we say “If you no have nothing good to say, shut your mouth!” (Jamaican Patios). Surely, even if we have to critique or correct, it can be done kindly! In Ephesians 4:29, we are encouraged to not let unwholesome talk come out of our mouths but instead choose to speak words that are “helpful for the building up of others according to their needs”and benefit those who listen. Yes, honesty is always the best policy but honesty  doesn’t mean being unkind.

Stop throwing your words around carelessly. Let us choose to say that which uplifts and encourage.

Word.

 

Maintaining Your Momentum

“Heights by great men, reached and kept, were not attained by sudden flight. But they, while their companion slept, were toiling upwards through the night”. 

It seems my best ideas and aha! moments happen for me when I’m tired, in need of encouragement and having some ‘self talk’ to get me through a rough patch (and these have been happening a lot lately!). I was musing over the fact that things are moving in a positive direction for me but its been a struggle to maintain this upward movement.  With the success has come more responsibility and challenges and sometimes my knees (physically and mentally) buckle under the weight of it all.

So what do you do when you are getting your heart’s desire, but realize there’s way more to it than you previously thought? In Jamaica, we have a proverb, ‘The higher monkey climb, the more he exposed’. It means the more success you attain, the more you will be challenged and your varied weaknesses brought to the surface. They will come at you from all directions and you wonder what the heck is going on! What am I doing wrong? You ask yourself how do you adequately manage these challenges and minimize their [negative] effects?

Recognize that success is intentional: It’s hard work but you can decide to have fun with it along the way. Attitude defines your altitude and having a positive view of things will get you farther along than you focusing on the negatives. Success is an action word in every sense and is affected by your mental and emotional state as you traverse this path.You have to engage in activities that will take you where you need to be or to maintain that which you have attained. Success is lived every day that you don’t give up or give in. It’s lived when you choose to wake up so you can exercise, meditate or do whatever it takes to  navigate your day purposefully.

It won’t be sudden: It will take some time – it’s not an overnight thing. The journey becomes less frustrating when you acknowledge this. Acknowledgement allows you to focus on what needs to be done and in identifying appropriate ways to address your needs.

It takes work and commitment: Some around you may be sleeping on their gifts but you have to decide not to be like them. You alone gets to decide on what you need, and so you should define it according to your terms,THEN work towards it. You won’t attain what you need by sitting down and complaining, hoping and dreaming. It’s not a wishy-washy thing where today you believe and tomorrow you don’t. Double-mindedness only delays what you are working towards. Decide what you are going to do and just do it. Everyday, without fail, until it becomes a habit.

It’s always darkest before the dawn: ‘Toil’, which I define as “Working extremely hard or incessantly”, speaks to consistently applying oneself to labour, physical or mental. To get what we desire we have to ‘toil upwards through the night’, through the dark hours of doubt, loneliness or exhaustion of varied capacities (money, time, skills, body, emotions). The adage, however, points to something important: they were toiling upwards. It means then that you will eventually be rewarded for your hard work and you certainly won’t always be where you are. Change is constant and an eventuality- you alone decides on the direction that it will take.

This is how you maintain your momentum. By daily applying yourself, living your vision and remaining focused. By not hurrying along and comparing yourself to those around you. By remaining mindful of your purpose, and engaging in activities that are geared towards accomplishing it.

Success won’t come overnight. But then, due to your significant investment, it won’t be as fleeting. You’ll appreciate it when it comes even more.

You have what you need: Go Slay Your Giant!

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“Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine”. 1 Samuel 17:40

I have been recently faced with the challenge of self doubt and second guessing the path I’ve been travelling on. Thoughts of “Can I do it?” “Is this really for me?” and the most frequent one” I can’t manage!” comes up whenever a challenge that seems overwhelming presents itself. This morning, as I lay in bed, these words floated into my consciousness: You have what you need – go slay your giant!

Like David in the bible, we have all that we need. Some of us are aware of them but varied circumstances has caused us not to acknowledge them or has removed the reminder of these presents from our thoughts. Some of us know, but all the internal arguments we have with ourselves cause us to delay. The negative self-talk holds us captive. Perhaps as giants tend to do, we are intimidated by the enormity of the journey, and are afraid of making a move that will commit us to working harder and reaching deep inside for what we know is there. For we do know, once successful, the expectations of others and ourselves now forces us to work harder to maintain that success. And that is no easy task.

David, in stepping forth to slay his giant, has presented us with a template from which to work.

This one is for you

This path is tailor made for you. The fact is, just as there are no two humans that are exactly the same, no matter how similar the characteristics and capabilities. Like our DNA, we have a unique set of skills, interpretation and internalization of life experiences, that makes our point of view distinct and different. This causes each of us to have a particular set of gifts to offer the world, our world. Our family, our community, our business and even our job needs what we have to offer. You (or I) are the only person who can do it the way in which it needs to be done.

Many are called, few are chosen

When David entered the camp, many experienced soldiers were waiting there and could have mounted a good defence against the Philistine. However, they lacked something essential : anointment and appointment. This simply means that though many may have similar skills, they have not been gifted with that special, remarkable expression of the talent, for that particular time. It was not their battle to fight. In the same way, often we have been given a remarkable idea or gift that can impact the world and while others may think of it, they will never have the same effect as you. Notice when David stepped onto the battle field, he changed the game. You too are a game changer. But you have to be courageous.

Be Courageous

There was dissent all around him, but David remained focussed and resolute: He knew what he had to do and though persons questioned his ability, he was never in doubt of what he could do. He reached deep inside, answered his nay-sayers, took up his tools and stepped forward to do battle. The only thing I would do differently is in answering the nay-sayers. I would ignore them, as I see that as a distraction, as time wasting when one needs to focus on the battle ahead. When you are preparing for battle, you really need no distractions. Oftentimes, it means life or death for the idea that you have. When you give ear to those around you, sometimes it ends up becoming so overwhelming, that it introduces doubt and causes you to give up.

Recall your past experiences

Perhaps the negative talk from the others can have a positive effect. The doubt expressed by those around him caused David to recall all the other occasions on which he exhibited the ability to handle battles. He had experiences that allowed him to hone his talent and prepare him for the journey ahead. You too have been preparing all your life for this leg of the journey! How about taking the time out to recall what you did in the past, even if the results were not favourable. Failures provide us with a platform from which to grow. Once the lesson has been learned, we certainly will not make the same mistakes again!

You are equipped to conquer

Others may try to fit you with what they have but it won’t work. You already know that you have what is needed to get you to the next level. What they have won’t fit – it wasn’t made for you and so you won’t be able to work with it. Saul tried to give David his armour, but David knew that it would be too heavy for him to carry. Others may try to heap their responsibility and vision onto you, but what is theirs is theirs and what is yours, yours. You can’t carry what was not made for you. Most of us shop at stores that offer clothing that is mass produced, trying to fit the most bodies into an average range of sizes. It may fit, but were they tailor made, you’d present a better image. Gifts, just like clothing, are tailor made for each person. Everyone’s offering to the universe is unique and is not a one size fits all.

Have you ever tried to imitate someone or tried to re-invent something that already exists? Difficult, isn’t it? You can only do so much and it doesn’t have the same impact that the original does. Exactly. You are an original and what you have to offer may be imitated but its impact cannot be duplicated.

You have your stones- go do what you have been called to. Slay your giant!

Patience and Perseverance are close friends!

“The problem with my desire for a quick fix is that I can miss the big picture only what only God knows is for my better good. This good is frequently accomplished by putting me in waiting mode and I don’t like to wait” Women of Faith card, 2003.

This card was given to me way back in ’03. I had never realized how impatient I am until one family member said to me “I’m going to pray that God causes you to wait for things, you have no patience”. What a Johari Window moment! I hadn’t known that side to me but others obviously did.

I now recognize that patience is a virtue and a blessing. Waiting enables you to develop perseverance. If the thing you want is truly that valuable to you, you will follow through and do what it takes to achieve it. Perseverance teaches you to appreciate the gift when it comes. It also allows you to have time to think about the internal request you made, that desire you have: Is it really what you need? Or is it what you want, in this moment?

Question your motives. Be blessed!